Jim and I spent the entire month of May on the east coast. We had the opportunity to revisit our American Heritage and to gain a new appreciation for the price paid by thousands for the independence and liberties we all enjoy.
There is nothing like having your consciousness raised about your patriotism quite like discovering that you have ancestors that were pilgrims. That would have never happened had we not been working and learning all the time we have been serving in the Oakland Family History Library. If we hadn't been working hard to learn Family Tree and it hadn't come out when it did we would have missed this opportunity of a life time. The trip was planned to the places we visited long before we knew any of this. There is also nothing quite like having Bob Trapp sit beside you and guide you through verifying it all in "The Mayflower Families Through Five Generations" that we have right there on our shelves in the Library. The Silver Books are the authoritative source for verification of those five generations and is a compilation of thousands of researchers' findings.
The Mayflower Society Building
The thing about this discovery is not in being related to an historical figure or in being able to join a society. The pearl is found in actually knowing who our ancestors are and knowing the information for them is well-documented and that they are a part of our lineage. We were the first in both of our families to do family history so being able to discover this has been so wonderful. When I put the first pencil to a paper pedigree and had only a handful of names, I could not have imagined that 35 years later this could happen. It is nothing short of a miracle.
We went on our first family history trip and learned the best vacations are those with a purpose beyond just touring and sightseeing. I don't see any regular vacations in our future ever! We understand now we need to go to several places and walk where they walked and stand by their graves. We saw many beautiful places and learned so much along the way but the very best days were spent doing family history.
As much as we love the websites like Find A Grave and Billion Graves it is just not the same as being there. Through our experience in the Library we have learned many things pertinent to our family history and were prepared to search when we arrived. We are so grateful to all the wonderful and brilliant people we work with that have taught us so much. Our prior learning helped us know just what to do, where to go and how to find what we needed.
We learned all about Jim's immigrant Grandfather's real life experience in his first town in America after coming from Italy at 18. In New Jersey he would join his brothers in the grocery business they established in Montclair just across the river from Manhattan.
We could browse through countless articles and city directories and old postcards and feel what his life was like in the early years in 3D...not just online! We saw their first home and toured it because the current owner just happened to be home and invited us in.
Gramma and Grampa's first house.
We sat in their church, because it just happened to be open right when we passed by for a special event. We saw his mother's elementary school because the one lady walking down a little side street just happened to know and we were prompted to stop and ask.
The place they worshiped God,
We found the store, Ferrera and Co, at 425 Bloomfield Avenue because the city directory gave us the name and location of the business in about five minutes. We found them at the Historical Society because Jim was prompted to see if they even had one that very morning as we were driving in. Montclair's Historical Society just happened to be open on Wednesdays only. It felt like divine help and inspiration at every turn. (Because it was!)
It was the perfect day and one of the most wonderful genealogy experiences we could have ever hoped to have. All this was possible because we live in America! We had the liberty to move about freely within our country and this is the place where people could immigrate to find opportunities they didn't have in the old country. Right there in that little town our American branch in Jim's family was begun.
Jim visited Patriot's Cove in Charleston, South Carolina and toured the ships, the USS Yorktown and a sub and a battleship that gave him a glimpse at the courage and bravery of the young men, including my father who served in WW2. That just deepened our appreciation for our freedoms and liberties so much. He saw the tiny spaces they lived in for months and months and with the danger all around them and how extremely young they were. It was all very sobering and poignant for both of us.
In The Pilgrim Hall Museum we saw the artifacts the passengers owned and the treasures they carried with them on the Mayflower. They had the original bible brought over on the voyage and used by William Bradford for his entire life. They had lots of pilgrim clothing and so many wonderful books and things for sale. We bought a video entitle One Small Candle and it is positively fabulous. We have watched it many times since we have been home. We also bought the book, Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, and it is amazing.
My favorite treasure in the Museum
We had this life altering experience because of this country we call America, our love for Family History and our dedication to making learning more a life long pursuit.
The First Congregational Meetinghouse
Thomas Newcomb 'of Eastham'~ Minister
Suddenly we felt a lot bigger than our one little family and it was wonderful and will always make for a more special Independence Day for us. And a more meaningful Thanksgiving too for that matter! We are already talking about going the Dakotas next and then on to Wales and Sweden. Thank you co-workers and great teachers and Family Search/Family Tree. We are believers in your new program and will be patient as you sort things out!! Take all the time you need Family Search.....it is worth the wait!